Addressing National Debt Is Far More Important Than Trade Deficits

COMMENTARY Debt

Addressing National Debt Is Far More Important Than Trade Deficits

Jul 1st, 2019 1 min read

Commentary By

Tori K. Whiting

Jay Van Andel Trade Economist

Derek Hosford

Summer 2019 member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation

The next step in the Trump administration’s pro-growth agenda should be to address spending, not trade deficits.  NoDerog/Getty Images

Promoting pro-growth economic policies has been a cornerstone of the Trump administration’s agenda since 2017. With tax reform implemented and deregulation in federal agencies well under way, President Donald Trump has helped our economy make huge strides.

It’s unfortunate, however, that the president is now making it a priority to decrease the trade deficit by reconfiguring trade relationships. This has wrongly taken precedence over the real monetary issue of our time: addressing our ballooning national debt.     

Unlike tax and regulatory reform, low trade deficits are not proven to promote economic growth and prosperity. In fact, the last time America had a significant decrease in its trade deficit was in 2009, during the Great Recession. 

That’s because the trade deficit is measured by taking the difference between the value of items we export and those we import. Since Americans buy more from abroad than businesses export, the U.S. runs a trade deficit. 

But does lowering the trade deficit help?  

The United States imports more than half of its fruit. Better packaging and shipping technology has contributed, but the big reason for this is the U.S. has limited environments that are suited for growing tropical fruits, especially during the winter, and our South American trading partners can grow higher-quality fruit that costs less and is better overall.  

The opportunity to buy better, cheaper products from abroad saves American families money and keeps importers and distributors in business, even if it happens to add to our trade deficit. It’s a win.

In contrast, government spending harms our long-term prosperity and could get worse if proposals such as “Medicare for All” and tuition-free higher education take root. 

Meanwhile, according to The Heritage Foundation’s “Blueprint for Balance,” payments on interest on the debt are set to overtake defense spending by 2025. 

This is bad news for the safety and security of the country, and it places a crushing burden on the next generation. Children born in 2018 inherited nearly $50,000 in national debt, and that figure will grow to $140,000 by the time they reach 30. 

The next step in the Trump administration’s pro-growth agenda should be to address spending, not trade deficits. 

Congress should at least stop making it worse. The “Blueprint for Balance” includes more than 250 recommendations to balance the federal budget by 2029. Perhaps Congress should pick a few and see what happens.

This piece originally appeared in the Daily Signal